Raising the bar in HR: Q&A with Mike Powell

photo of Mike Powell in a suit coat and white button down shirtIn the business world, it has never been more important to be versatile and agile. For senior Mike Powell, these are the very qualities that propelled him to major in human resource management. Impressively, he has already secured his SHRM-CP certification, an accomplishment many don’t undertake until fully immersed in their profession. With graduation just a few months away, Mike looks back on his time at the Haworth College of Business.

Did you have an ‘aha’ moment when you realized that human resource management was the field you wanted to major in?

My ‘aha’ moment was in Dr. Dan Farrell’s human resource management course in fall 2018. Throughout the semester, he mentioned all the roles and responsibilities of a human resources department, including real-life experiences from his past HR work experience. I found his anecdotes exciting and was hooked from the start. At the time, I was a management major and unsure of my concentration choice. The following summer I switched my major to human resource management.

Looking back on your time at WMU Haworth, what do you see as your favorite educational experience? Why?

My favorite educational experience was my project management course. Although it was not directly related to human resources, it gave me an introduction to business partnerships, consulting, data analysis, professional writing, general business activities and functioning in an ambiguous environment. Additionally, I was placed on a seven-person team, where we competed on projects alongside 15 other teams. My team came in second place, as determined by a panel that included the CEO of the business we consulted for. I believe the principles and skills I learned contributed to my success and will continue to aid me in the future.

If you could give any advice to first-year students, what would it be?

My first and most important piece of advice to first-year students is to keep up on schoolwork. College is a time to seize opportunities and work hard in order to mold a successful future.  Second, network with professionals and use career resources. Whether you are a business student or not, there are several career counseling, job interview and resume assistance resources at Western and employers who attend career fairs and registered student organization meetings to offer internships and jobs to students. These opportunities will give you valuable experience and boost your career. Lastly, have fun and make friends! It is always nice to have meaningful memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. 

In order to take the SHRM-CP exam, you must have around 500 hours of HR work experience. That’s an impressive feat! How did you reach your hours? Do you have any tips or tricks on juggling the hours with schoolwork and other student activities?

Most of my hours came from my virtual HR internship with Amazon last summer. The remainder were from project work in my other HR classes here at WMU and information sessions from the HR student organization, Society for Excellence in Human Resources (SEHR). As for studying for the SHRM-CP exam, or really any exam, save notes, flashcards, and quizzes on your phone, so you can easily access your study materials anytime. Also, specifically allot time away from friends and other people to study. It is hard at first, but will pay off at test time.

Do you have a professor or mentor at WMU who has been instrumental in your development?

The WMU professor who I feel has been most instrumental in my development is Dr. Chris Stamper. Although I only had her for one class, I also interacted with her through her work as SEHR’s faculty advisor.  And that one class, Staffing Organizations, is what I credit with preparing me for a professional position. I completed realistic and challenging work in strategic workforce planning, recruiting, employee retention and business document writing. 

Congratulations on your post-graduation job with Amazon. Can you tell us why you chose the company and about your path to a job offer?

I chose Amazon because I wanted to gain human resource experience from one of the largest and most diverse corporations, and Amazon stresses high standards in all its activities. Additionally, I admire Amazon’s social responsibility initiatives geared at improving the lives of people globally.

My path to a job offer began with my Amazon Operations HR internship which was supposed to be in Las Vegas; however, it got canceled and modified to a virtual position due to COVID-19. Throughout my internship, I took mentors’ and colleagues’ advice to heart and put 100% effort into every task and project I worked on. About two weeks after my internship concluded, I received a call from an Amazon recruiter about my interest in a full-time role as a senior human resources assistant at a fulfillment center in Phoenix, Arizona. I gratefully accepted the position, which guarantees me a job and valuable entry-level HR experience directly out of college.